Sir Thomas Browne observes a murmuration of starlings

Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne

Stares or starlings in great numbers. most remarkable in their numerous flocks wch I haue obserued about the Autumne when they roost at night in the marshes in safe place upon reeds & alders. wch to obserue I went to the marshes about sunne set. where standing by their vsuall place of resort I obserued very many flocks flying from all quarters. wch in lesse than an howers space came all in & settled in innumerable numbers in a small compasse.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682)
Notes and Letters on the Natural History of Norfolk More Especially on the Birds and Fishes

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  1. BrownE is a huge figure in British ornithology. He helped both Willoughby and Christopher Merrett with their enquiries by correspondence about birds, kept a bittern, owl, ostrich, eagle and cormorant at one time or another, and like Ted Ellis centuries later, went out to the Broads to witness starling murmuration as quoted here. He even coined the word ‘incubation’ and another word relating to ornithology which i forget at present ! Norfolk naturalist Ted Ellis also owned a copy of the 1905 Jarrold’s edition of Browne’s collected bird and fish writings. There’s probably still a few things left to discover about Browne’s ornithological observations to anyone well versed in the subject.

    1. Gaa!! Can’t believe I misspelt his name in the article title of all places! I shall remedy this howler forthwith, thanks. Browne features prominently in one of the chapters of my book.

      Thanks for the interesting comments. I’ve just finished reading a major biography of Browne, which I’ll be reviewing here soon.

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